ATV Related News (Members Only)
Where do Snowmobile and ATV trails originate? By Ted Burns
January 25, 2017
Here are a few facts about motorized recreational trails, which the vast majority of riders are not aware of and never think about. At some point some concerned people got together to start a club. This club is a “non-profit” organization made up of good people who give their heart and soul to the greater good of the club which is just trying to provide others, a place to ride and enjoy the great outdoors.
Step one is the volunteers going out and trying to find the best possible route for a trail which will require the least amount of annual maintenance and have the least environmental impact to the land. Then and only then these same volunteers have to go and ask permission from the landowner. This is where the not-so-fun begins. This is where we have to explain to the landowner “to their satisfaction,” that we intend to keep riders in line and cause the landowner no problems. This is almost never an easy task and until you are asked to talk to these landowners, face to face, you will never realize just how difficult it can be.
If and when you get these landowners permission your responsibility to the landowner as a club, made up of volunteers, has just begun. Now every rider “who just doesn’t get it,” will pretty much try to destroy all the goodwill that you have created with the landowner by showing the landowner as well as his property no respect by riding where, when, and how you want to ride. When you ride off trail, or ride recklessly, or ride late night or early mornings you are pretty much going to generate phone calls from landowners or folks that live near the trails back to the very volunteers who asked permission for the trails you now use. Many times these calls are in the form of a threat of trail closures. This is the part that no one is aware of unless the threat is not just a threat but a trail closure. With just one of these phone calls, a trail stops and can go away forever. The sad fact here is that the culprits who caused the trail closure are almost never caught and prosecuted, which means the good riders are the ones to suffer the consequences.
Another important step is how to maintain a functional club made up of volunteers. This is a very tough one because everyone gets older and many burn out in a short period of time. Keeping good volunteer workers on the front lines is difficult in itself but keeping sponsors and members is getting very difficult as well. The vast majority of riders will do their very best to avoid joining a club, which is the only one who provides you with a trail.
Most riders believe that the state of New Hampshire gives them trails to ride and that could not be farther from the truth. There is very few miles of trails in our state that are provided by any state agency contrary to popular belief. Our clubs find very little help from our state capitol when trying to make a trail system work and a great many times find more obstruction than help. The closer you get to a government agency the more technical trail issues become. Nothing is as simple as an agreement between a volunteer and a private landowner. I am not saying it is easy, I am just saying it is far less complicated than dealing with any state agency.
On one final point, let me just say this, no one should believe that their $60 or $70 buys you any entitlement to use privately owned snowmobile or ATV trails. That fee gives nothing to the very people who gave you the privilege to ride anywhere. That privilege was given to you by a volunteer, and a generous landowner. This is something to remember the next time you have the opportunity to join a club. All clubs need new blood to keep their organization functional. Becoming an active member and contributing one skill set or another is very important, whether it be rolling rocks out or the trail or having computer skills to help promote websites or just folding and mailing newsletters or memberships.
The only small part of your registration fee that goes to a club, is for trail maintenance to either repair or maintain a trail that has been damaged by Mother Nature or usage from riders. The club and landowner see no benefit and on top of that the way funding is set up, the very volunteers that give you a trail have to come up with 40 percent of the money for hiring equipment to repair your riding area. There is something here that needs to be fixed as well.
Ted Burns is the trail administrator of the North Country ATV and trail master of the Stratford Nighthawks Snowmobile Club in North Stratford, N.H.